Sunday, 28 February 2016

Sunday drivers

Sunday. With a recent flurry of new games arrivals courtesy of the maths trade I (Sam) was keen to try out one of them, and as Steel Driver only had 3 pages of rules that felt like the right choice. I was marginally pushy enough to overcome Ian's mild reticence. Andrew is always willing to try a Martin Wallace game and Chris arrived late, so had no say. We set up.

The game sees you the players as brokers in the railway track-laying industry across the USA in olden times. Over five rounds you bid for control of train companies (there are six) and then, assuming you win, you both receive a share in that company and choose where to build the track using the value of your bid to pay for it. Where you build gets you different cash rewards, and as the ultimate winner is the richest player this is a fairly key part of the game. But - everyone who has shares in a company will get the cash rewards each round - and after the final round there's a kind of reverse-Railways effect where all the cities suddenly get populated with goods cubes. Players who have the most shares in a given train company can take a cube their track is connected to - the catch being that several cities have more than one train company attached to them, so you may be beaten to the punch. Cubes score in sets, so different colours are good and lots of the same colour offers a fairly paltry return.

It was interesting. Myself, Andrew and Ian all found ourselves unable to resist controlling the same company over and over, having invested in it early. Chris went for a more broad spread of companies and in another game that might have proved a winning strategy. What helped me in my ultimate victory wasn't the five green shares, but the fact that I had a wide range of goods cubes to cash in; having been the only player to start building track on the west coast I'd had licence to spread in three directions. The other train companies started in the east, and ultimately got under each other's feet in the eventual goods-cube-bunfight.

Thematically speaking it's perhaps less Wallace-y than Tinners' Trail or Railways, but I enjoyed it.

We then played Push It which I also won, albeit by default when Chris and I were both poised to win and somebody sent my disc spiralling into the jack. The game was also notable for a couple of other things - I broke the rules by rolling a disc between some others (fortunately this wasn't contested as it then rolled much too far to be relevant) and Ian's decision to go fairly aggressive, barrelling into everyone else with arms metaphorically flailing. Not successful, but quite amusing.

After that, Ian and Andrew retired and Chris and I bashed out a two-player Biblios. It was brutal for Chris - in the end the whole game hinged on the alphabet, and fortunately I was lexiconically younger:

Sam 9
Chris 5

Steel Driver gets a thumbs up from me. I'd be interested to hear the other's thoughts.


  1. I played it once in 2009, and the sum of my recorded thoughts appears to be "Not as good as Chicago Express." I'd be up for giving it another go though!

  2. That's funny, I think I played Chicago Express around the same time! I liked that too, Would be up for giving that another go...

    Steel Driver was longish, nearly two hours in fact. But that was four newbies and included the rules explanation, so I think it would drop substantially.

  3. It didn't grab me. I would play it again but probably wouldn't suggest it. I think I found it a bit 'mathsy' if that can be a term and I generally lose out in those types of game because I can't be bothered to add up!

  4. I didn't do a whole load of mental calculation; though you might well be right that to do so would be the best approach. I kind of went with my gut really, and in the second half of the game I tried to cut off avenues of approach into the west, with limited success. Impossible to grab a whole chunk of territory to yourself... and I still think specializing might not be a default route to victory. It is pretty dry but there's certainly room for screwage too.

  5. It was okay, but I was kind of playing it just to see how it played. It was only until late on that I thought about how to get different cubes.

    Specialising in a colour early is perhaps a mistake. Once I got control of a colour, I thought I'd be the only one who'd play it to its best advantage, so I kept bidding for it, even though I controlled it and maybe should have gone elsewhere.

  6. I'd be up for playing some more Chicago Express, having bought it, played it a few times, traded it away and then traded it back (same copy!). It's a game that would require a few repeated plays with the same group - but since it's not an evening eater by any standards (60 mins), perhaps we should make a concerted effort, as we did with the short-lived 'game of the month' thing a year or so ago.
    It plays up to six, but is best with four according to BGG.
    There's some fairly gamey strategy involved (ie exploiting the game mechanisms to force payouts and rush the game end, etc) but there are a couple of useful articles in the forums about them. Okay I'm getting over-excited about this now . . .

    1. I'm so up for this but can't commit right now!